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As the virus shatters records, Pence says U.S. is facing a ‘season of hope’ with likely vaccine approval.

Vice President Mike Pence appeared at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta on Friday and said the nation was facing a “challenging time” but also “a season of hope,” with the approval of the first coronavirus vaccine coming as soon as next week.

“Thank you to the men and women of C.D.C. who have literally poured their lives over the last 10 months into saving lives across America,” said Mr. Pence, who wore a mask during the visit.

But with the virus now in its darkest phase — and hospitalizations and daily caseloads shattering records — the White House remains largely silent on the devastation being wrought around the country and continues to do little to amplify guidance from the C.D.C. that could help stem the spread.

And while Mr. Pence sought to offer an upbeat assessment, Dr. Henry Walke, who directs the C.D.C.’s Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections, presented a far more sobering picture.

“Hospitalizations are still rising and it’s a real problem,” he said. “Health care providers are overstressed, beds are full.”

The C.D.C. issued new guidance on Friday urging state and local governments to put forth universal face mask directives in indoor settings outside the home, among other measures in the agency’s first comprehensive list of strategies for combating the coronavirus. The agency also called for increased access to testing and quarantine for those who are exposed.

Mr. Pence’s C.D.C. visit came ahead of a “vaccine summit” at the White House on Tuesday featuring him, President Trump, government officials and industry workers. Two days later, a committee of outside experts will convene to make recommendations to the Food and Drug Administration about whether to grant emergency approval to Pfizer’s vaccine.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on Thursday that he would implore Americans to wear masks for a little more than three months toward the beginning of his term.

“Just 100 days to mask,” Mr. Biden told CNN. “I think we’ll see a significant reduction.”

But until he is sworn in on Jan. 20, Mr. Biden’s ability to take direct action is limited.


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